The Black Maria's debut album, Lead Us To Reason, is the latest release in the new influx of bands that Victory has been signing left and right lately. Gone are the days of Snapcase, and and in are the days of Silverstein and Hawthorne Heights. Long gone are the glory days, and pretty much all Victory has left with us are retreads of retreads. Well, one would assume The Black Maria follow the same pitfalls of so many of it's more recent predecessors, but such is not necessarily the case. While not giving us anything new, or inventive, The Black Maria have provided a release that I'm sure some of you will find to be an enjoyable record, if not for just a little while.
Boasting ex-members of Grade and New Day Rising, the 5-piece are able to craft an album that provides some moments of promise. The two singers work well with each other, providing some catchy hooks and good harmonies, but all too often ruin the song with a moment or two of screaming that feels all too forced. The musicianship is tight for the most part, and through the more up-tempo and slower songs, they do provide a good flow though the album's duration, which is about 40 minutes, just enough not to wear out its welcome.
Leading off with "The Memento," both vocalists have their moments at different points, and this is a song that will make you bob your head, tap your foot, or do whatever you must. It's a real enjoyable track, but the screaming of "I hate you!" at the end adds too much of a cheese factor. That's one of this album's major downfalls; the lyrical content.
With lines like "I reach for razor blades, I want to cut myself / I don't like what I see, we won't make it so why should we stop it?" I just can't take it seriously, or even appreciate it in any context. Also, in "Betrayal," the lyrics are equally as clich√©, and over the top; "Betrayal, betrayal, it rips right through me / How you lie right to me, betrayal, betrayal / Will this world make better sense / when you mean nothing to me?" It's not as much a sticking point for me as with other bands, but if you're trying to separate themselves from the pack as their bio claims, that's not the direction you want to be going in.
The album does have its highlights, most notably the album's closer "Rats In The Prison." The song keeps a great tempo, and I really enjoy the approach they've taken with the vocals in this instance. Both vocalists have strong voices, and they're put to the test with this track. To compliment this sound, there's the more low-key moments, as with "The Lines We Cross." It's a subtle, piano-driven track that fits nicely in the middle of the album. But other than that, nothing really deviates from the standard formula the rest of the album follows. The formula itself can't be faulted, since it's not horrible, but the lack of willing to stray oustide of itself really brings the potential replay value of the album down.
All and all, this isn't a horrible CD. It's got its moments, and shows that with some direction, and actually finding an identity of its own, it really could be a solid piece of music. My main issues are the lack of variety, the lyrical content, and the needless screams, the last of which are obviously only present to try and appeal to another group of kids than would normally listen to this. They just need to find a direction of their own, and go running with it. With some work, these guys could be a solid act, but for now, the training wheels need to stay on just a little bit longer.